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Notes and news — October 2021

In this issue:

Hydraulics at Crossness

Tim Smith's article in London Industrial Archaeology No. 19 included a Gazetteer of sites in London that used hydraulic power. He mentions Crossness Sewage Pumping Station in Abbey Wood. As he says the original penstocks on the site were manually operated and in 1884, the Metropolitan Board of Works were responsible for awarding the contract for hydraulically operated penstocks for use in the Beam Engine House to W & J Yates of Waterloo Place.

The four penstocks mentioned in the article can still be seen in the Beam Engine House today, although they are not operable. The sewage arrived at Crossness, having been conducted from central London through the Southern Outfall system. The sewage flowed by gravity and dropped by 2ft every mile. So when it arrived at Crossness it was about 30ft below ground level. It had been lifted once at Deptford Pumping Station. The beam engines operated lift pumps to bring the sewage up to a level so that it could run into a reservoir for storage and treatment. The four penstocks mentioned by Tim were used to control the flow from the pumps to the reservoir.

At this time the sewage was released from the reservoir as the tide in the river changed. The idea was that as the tide flowed out the sewage would flow away too. The problem was that as the tide direction changed the sewage began to flow back up river!

Big changes took place at Crossness when the London County Council (LCC) took over from the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1889 and hydraulics played a major part in this update. The LCC decided that because the population of London had increased the problem dealt with at Crossness had changed and the engines should be compounded. It also led to the purchase of two new vertical cylindered compound engines installed in their own new engine house. This was built on the front of the Beam Engine House. It is still there but the engines have gone. It was called the Triple Expansion Engine House (TEEH). These new engines helped with the lifting of the sewage as it arrived at the site, assisting the Beam Engines in conducting the sewage to the reservoir.

All this required another engine house to provide the pumping power necessary to operate the Precipitation system. It also meant that hydraulics would be needed to operate new penstocks etc in the new expanded system. This was provided in the new Precipitation Engine House built on the site. It contained engines to power the pumping of sludge to the Sludge boats at specially built piers on the site, and penstocks in the updated reservoir. There were two engines to provide pumping power to two accumulators.

The Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company Ltd were awarded the contract to provide the machinery required in the new Precipitation Engine House. This included 'a hydraulic main to convey pressure from accumulators in the Engine House to the 16 hydraulic rams in the old precipitation channels', the two accumulators and two pumping engines for raising the accumulators and two cisterns. They also supplied pumping engines to raise the diluted sludge from the precipitation channels into the sludge settling channels. There was also a hydraulic main running into the TEEH to operate penstocks in there. This went in a trench from the Precipitation House. Also discovered on site in the Beam Engine House are the remains of hydraulic pipes leading to the Valve House where there was a lift for raising coal for the two engines here.

Other items that were supplied were two Lancashire boilers and a Boiler Feeder. There was one hydraulic jib crane for use on the jetty. So the use of hydraulics at Crossness was quite extensive. All of the above was found out from the minutes of the LCC held at the London Metropolitan Archive. Not much survives. The Precipitation House is still there but is completely empty and it is not part of the Crossness Engines site, the penstocks are still in the Beam Engine House and some can be seen in the TEEH. The engines and the lift have gone from the Valve House. David Dawson

How did they get the holes for the rivets in the right place?

People made boilers in the days when ships were still constructed from timber. To make a boiler you bent iron plates and riveted them together, ensuring that the joints were steam tight.

When ships began to be made of iron it seemed fairly obvious that the techniques of boilermaking could easily be adapted for shipbuilding.

In the 1980s when we used to discuss traditional iron shipbuilding there was a puzzle. How did they get the holes for the rivets in the right place? In a shipyard the procedure was to mark the places where the holes were to be made with chalk and then to use a punching machine. The work was done quite rapidly, generally employing apprentices to position the iron plate, and it seemed all too likely that the holes would not be precisely positioned.

The solution appears to be as follows. The holes are not accurately positioned but the diameter of the holes being punched is smaller than the diameter of the rivets that are to be used. When bent to shape the iron plate is put in position on the ship's hull and is secured, by putting temporary bolts through some of the punched holes.

The new plate is overlapping a previous plate which already has holes for the rivets. The bolts go through the holes in both plates. The result is not a very accurate fit.

The next part of the process is to ream out all the holes not occupied by a bolt to the diameter of the rivet which is to be used. This results in a really accurate alignment of the hole in the plate being fitted and the hole in the plate it is to be attached to. Hot rivets are then inserted in the usual manner resulting in good watertight joints.

There will still be some bolts in position in holes which are not accurately aligned. The temporary bolts are removed; the holes they occupied are reamed out, and hot rivets inserted as before. The plate is now riveted securely in position with the holes accurately aligned.

No explanation of this procedure appears to have appeared in print. Was it so well known at the time that no one thought of writing about it?

John Rennie and his sons made steam engines and boilers. They later moved into iron shipbuilding and the family business continued. Fairly late in the 19th century the descendants had a boiler works in Greenwich on Deptford Creek, on the east bank near the mouth of the Creek. These boiler works were well-equipped with blacksmiths' shops, punching and bending machines and so on — just as you would have in a shipyard. The Rennies made boilers here but at one time they also had a large government contract to make iron boats for India. Boilermaking and shipbuilding were essentially the same business.

The above describes boilermaking and shipbuilding; riveted iron structures such as bridges would also have been made in a similar manner and gasholders for that matter. Bob Carr

Ghost signs and IA in the High Street

In the GLIAS publication London Industrial Archaeology No. 19, David Perrett contributes a most informative paper on a personal overview of five decades of the work of GLIAS in Greater London and further afield.

In one section he discusses craft industries and sadly notes that 'too often small works are just part of the streetscape, they are always there and then overnight they disappear un-noticed and unrecorded'. In this contribution and others to follow I will follow this theme and show firstly, how remaining signage traces long gone crafts and skills. Then, how the previous face of the local High Street showcased small industries that are now displaced by consumer, coffee and fast food chains; charity and phone shops, and online shopping. Finally, an example of the onsite recording of an unusual bespoke craft industry.

The success of a business enterprise can depend significantly on informative signage and prominent local advertising. Interestingly, for IA recording, while businesses change and industries disappear as technology progresses, the related signs may linger on largely un-noticed to become 'ghost signs'. These lingering traces may be very ephemeral and subject to weathering or overpainting, or they may be permanently incised in masonry or written in enamel. Many give clues as to prevailing prices, services, apparel and social needs. All are interesting from many points of view. Usually located at higher levels and not easily accessible hence their longevity, they are IA subject material that can easily be recorded and do not need special access. Here is a selection from my own collection acquired over the last 50 years or so. Sidney Ray. All photos by the author

Part two >>>
Part three >>>

Bermondsey Bermondsey

Bermondsey Mesh & Wire Works, 1 Tanner Street/109 Bermondsey Street Camden Town

City of London Finchley Park

Deptford Clerkenwell

Finsbury Van and Wheel Works Highgate

Hampstead Hackney

Islington Kilburn

Mile End North Finchley

B Flegg, Soho Stepney Green

Gasworks memorial at New Southgate Park

Part of New Southgate's gasholder, which was dismantled last year (GLIAS Newsletter August 2021), will go on display locally following a donation by National Grid.

Two finials — formerly located at the top of the 20 steel columns that supported the gasholder structure — were donated to Friern Barnet and District Local History Society and have now been placed in Millennium Green with an interpretation board which explains the history of gas production in the area.

The gasholder in Station Road was constructed circa 1912 by Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall. It first stored gas produced by Tottenham and District Gas Company, and then natural gas from the early 1960s. It continued to store gas until improvements in the network meant gas could be stored in underground pipes.

Plans were submitted earlier this year for a 19-storey housing development on the former New Southgate gasworks.

A circuit of the traditional newspaper area to include the News Chronicle building, Fleet Street

This walk should take about 70 minutes to cover about 1½ miles. It has been put together in haste as planning permission has been given to demolish and replace a large frontage on Fleet St (former Chronicle Building) and behind. Do it while you can! Some building detail needs binoculars or a good telephoto camera lens.

Start on the opposite aide of New Bridge Street to the entrance to Blackfriars Underground station and the northern entrance to Thameslink — there is a foot subway — at the eastern side of the Unilever HQ Building, 1932-4. Above, a stone horse is restrained by on one side by a powerful-looking man, not to be outdone by a woman on the other. Is there a symbolic link with the firm's products? Head north, past No 17, Blackfriars House, its overall exterior of light coloured ceramic looking as stylish and fresh as when built in 1917 as an office with warehouse behind. Cross Tudor St to stop alongside a foundation stone set in the grey building on the left, Nos 16-18, The London Missionary Society's HQ (1904). By then the spread of their work was amazing, considering practicalities of international communications. Turn back and right into Tudor St, stopping to read the plaque on No 2, Florence Ho, dated 1902. The organisation had one secretary plus two voluntary ones — but then, writing was their living. Turn right into Bridewell Place, where the lady's head isn't Florence; that's the architect's surname. Go ahead to stop outside a brick house, No 2, with a small oil lamp moulded in the bricks above the door and a Latin word each side. These suggest the building initially had a specific purpose or ownership. 'Listing' info only gives the date, 1885. The 1911 census records it (unless numbering has changed) as a 'Section House' with seven single policemen resident plus one man 'detained'. It is now offices. Continue into New Bridge St, turn left and stop on the corner of Ludgate Circus, laid out in the early 1870s.

On the corner ahead, as spelt out by the letters of the clock, is Ludgate House. The small ball above is a globe. This was built in 1872 as the HQ of Thomas Cook, extended along Fleet St in 1906. By 1939 the firm, which dealt in foreign exchange and had links with the Wagons-Lits organisation, was owned jointly by the UK four main railway companies. Must have been interesting discussions when they came under Government control at the start of the Second World War. Cross the street to look closely above the doorway of No 107, where one cherub is being nudged by a steam loco and the other a steam boat (photo 1). Above the next doorway, 110/111, a cherub finger is over where Europe would be on the blank globe. Now go back across the road to the south side to see the upper part of the building — heads of various ethnicities and panels of standing cherubs doing things (photo 2).

Above the doorway of 107 Fleet St Thomas Cook's cherubs plan ahead above a head

Continue west along Fleet St, looking at the north side. The next building, five floors with large square windows, is an extension of the 'modern' Daily Express, 1933, with its smooth rounded corners. Both are currently empty. Planning permission has been sought to demolish the extension and replace it by a new building in style similar to, and used as one with, the Express. But also allow yourself to be distracted by the carving above the doorway of 90-94, St Bartholomew's House, 1900, built to be multi-occupied. A short distance further, the dark space above the door of 85 has a bronze horn-blowing Fame. This building, which continues round into Salisbury Court, was built 1934-8, architect Lutyens, for the Press Association and Reuters. Stop briefly at the corner of Salisbury Court to give the once-over to the so-so side of No 81, formerly a Barclays bank, 1924 (to be demolished), before turning down that road. Nos 4-7, on the right, carry the date 1878, despite appearance. The plaque with casks is the Vintners' sign, showing either ownership, or occupation, or both. The façades of these, plus No 8 and the corner house facing Salisbury Sq, will be kept, with alterations to the interiors, rear and roof. An arched passage opposite No 8 provides a short diversion to St Brides Church, open to visitors 08.00-17.00 Mon-Fri. Above the final doorway on the long side of 85 Fleet St are interwoven letters. They appear to be R (Reuters) P A (Press Agency). In the centre of Salisbury Sq is a granite monument to Robert Walton (info plaque), surrounded by offices to be demolished (photo 3).

Return to Fleet St and stop, looking left across the road to take in the size and style of Peterborough House, Telegraph HQ, 1931, the protruding clock being the only item of colour. Now linked to provide additional space, the earlier Mersey House, directly opposite, was the London office of the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo, but also partly occupied by unrelated small firms. Use the pedestrian refuge to cross the road, walk a few paces to the left and stop to take in the range that is to be demolished — the corner bank, (News) Chronicle House, 1924, with seven bays of windows with metal frames and a third building, 1984, on the corner of Whitefriars (photo 4).

Offices at Salisbury Sq Coming down on south side of Fleet St — a former bank, Chronicle House and a newer building

Continue past Peterborough House, looking above the main doors where two Mercury figures dash off — or maybe fall with heel wings entangled — with news from the background depiction of the British Isles. Next door to the Telegraph is Queen of Scots House. Wearing a long dress/cloak, she stands at first floor level on this ornate building. Opposite is a large dark building, 1989, on the previously News of the World site. It is to be 'remodelled'. Pass the 'Cheshire Cheese' to stop at the nearest corner of Bouverie House. This large building is a NatWest Bank — but the two circles with initials BB at this end suggest a different history. Kelly's for 1961 shows a Bank, then, in alpha sequence, Benn Bros, publishers (maybe the BB?) and some 35 other organisations, of which 30 were newspapers or other publications, such as Gas World and Ice Cream Industry. In 1948 it was the National Provincial Bank, and 40 names of firms.

Cross Fleet St by the nearby pedestrian crossing and look back at the complete Bouverie House, before turning left. The building on the east corner of Bouverie St has the letter S cast into the metal balconies. But, alas, this is because it was named Scottish House, not a reminder of a firm long gone. Continue and turn right into Whitefriars St. Although the corner building will go, the next one down, offices, will not, but the pub next door will. Go to the far corner of that pub to see the extent of offices behind and to its right which are to be demolished, then turn return uphill until turning into Hanging Sword Alley on the right. This leads past the utilitarian glazed white brick rear of Chronicle House and, turning right, yellow brick rears of Salisbury Court to again reach Salisbury Sq. Go ahead to the far corner and down Dorset Rise, passing the Premier Inn with its odd 'George and Dragon' sculpture on the left, to turn right onto and along Hutton St. A glance up Primrose Hill shows the back entrance to the Harrow pub. When reaching Whitefriars St and turn left, almost immediately crossing Tudor St to stop and turn round at its junction with Carmelite St. New build abounds, but just passed is a former detached house, which would have been close to the edge of the pre-Embankment Thames, surviving as a shop and café. Turn half left to the corner of Whitefriars St and Tudor St. The large long building from the corner (No. 24, Northcliffe House, 1927), was one of two blocks of Associated Newspapers; the Daily Mail was printed here. Walk west, past its façade, along Tudor St. The next building, main doorway adorned with two swans in bulrushes, was the 'White Swans' PH; 1881 date alongside the next doorway. Cross the street and continue walking west, beneath the open-mouthed terracotta men to the corner of Temple Ave, where Mercury holds a wordless banner (photo 5). This large building, 1897, was the HQ and printing works of the Argus Printing Co. 1897. Look across the road junction to the building with curved corner, carrying the name Harmsworth House. Beyond that is access to the Temple grounds. Perhaps for another day.

Turn left (south) beneath more of the heads, with the long bulky Temple Chambers opposite. A glance at the 1918 edition of Kelly's showed named of about 300 firms, though many must have been just an address. Continue across the end of Tallis St and cross over to look up at the façade of the next building. There are 15 sets of cherubs, facing away from each other, many holding telephone mouth or ear pieces, plus the faint letters NT. The National Telephone Company combined local undertakings. The green thing atop of the lantern is all that remains of Mercury, intact in 1984. Continue to the Embankment and turn left — no cherubs on this elevation. Pass No 58 — are the urns either side of the Royal Coat of Arms of Coade stone? Pass the new Carmelite House, turning left into Carmelite St. A short distance along, on the right is a former LCC fire station, built 1897 (photo 6). The 1911 census shows permanently resident above were 10 single men aged 21-30, plus the Chief (47), his wife and five children. Far up the balcony are carved helmets and axes — or maybe hoses? You need a long fireman's ladder to see them!

Mercury at corner of Tudor St & Temple Ave Carmelite St fire station South-west corner Carmelite St & Tallis St

Cross to the other side of the street and continue until the next corner, of Tallis St, where the doorway has Mercury's head, two cherubs and the letters DM & EN. Perhaps Daily Mail and Evening News? This was the first block for Associated Newspapers, 1897. Go along the Tallis St side to note two pavement-level cranes. Between them, in the centre of the road, one of three small metal covers is lettered LHP, suggesting they had been hydraulically powered. Return to the street corner and cross Carmelite St to stop opposite the grey stone building. Brown stone carved panels instead of windows show a variety of musical instruments, with more either side of the head of an enraptured woman above the door. The Guildhall School of Music, 1875. Continue to the far side of John Carpenter St and turn left to see more musical themes and names of some musicians on the extension, even though its style suggests that this was built first. Turn round and head towards the Embankment. On the left, the London School has carved girl pupils either side of Moore. A foundation stone on the corner, 1880, gives info. Turn left, along the front of the school, where boy pupils and more eminents are displayed. Lettering cast into the bases of the two lamps at the foot of the entrance steps show they were cast at Coalbrookdale in 1882 — or are exact replicas. A few paces further, on the left is a sight similar to that at the start — the end of the Unilever building with a man and woman restraining a horse. And a bit further on is back where we started. David Thomas


Luckily two City Conservation Areas, Fleet St and Whitefriars, include most of the area described, and the 1997 'Pevsner', London 1: The City, has some specifics. Brief library visits to consult Kelly's Directory and look at 'Find my Past' have helped. The Evening Standard had Public Notices detailing planning applications and consents.

People working in confined spaces

Rescue vehicle, June 2021, Bob Carr

Thames Water have been carrying out refurbishment work to water mains over a wide area of London. For larger diameter pipes the technique is to insert a plastic liner into the old cast-iron mains. This can usually be done from above ground by means of access shafts and trenches. However, there are awkward places where there is a tight bend or a junction between pipes where it is necessary for someone to work inside the water main itself and this may be as small as 36 inches in diameter. Someone will need to travel along inside the main from an access shaft or drift to the place of work.

How do people travel along the main to get there? They may be able to lie down on a low trolley and by means of pedals propel themselves along; electric propulsion from a battery might also be a possibility. A safety line would have to be attached to the worker in order to retrieve the person in case of difficulty.

Bad air is hazardous and breathing apparatus is no doubt available; clearly ventilation is critical. Early coalmines were ventilated by having several shafts and drawing air along the horizontal galleries. For a section of water main of limited extent Thames Water only need one entry point and one exit point with an electric fan at one end.

If you have any tendency towards claustrophobia this work quite likely sounds utterly appalling but it is probably no more dangerous than diving, and probably not as potentially injurious to health. People do seem to be able to adapt and get used to most things.

In the 19th century many people were driven by hunger and uncomfortable work was not uncommon. Men, probably young boys, worked inside the columns of gasholders to tighten bolts.

You might think that particularly slim people would be engaged in this work but from observation the people involved seem to be of the usual build. When this work is carried out it appears that they are required to have a special rescue vehicle present in case of difficulties; here is a photograph of one.


Thanks are due to Malcolm Tucker for amendments. Bob Carr

More on Bofors AA gun platform at Cheshunt Lock — image

Further to Bob Carr's letters on the Bofors Gun Platform at Cheshunt — GLIAS Newsletters 311, p5, 312, pp10-11, 314, p6:

The Royal Commission Report on the Survey 1993 of the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey states: 'Anti-Aircraft defence was generally placed at a distance from the site, also protecting the armaments factories at Enfield and the approaches to north-east London'. The Bofors platform at Cheshunt is within this category.

For specifically Factory defence, closer to/within the Factory site, a two-man light weapon revolving Alan-Williams turret for low level defence was situated at the perimeter fence and within the Director made his contribution to defence with an octagonal gun emplacement for a heavier AA weapon built in the grounds of his garden, type unknown, although there is some speculation it was used for an experimental multi barrel gun.

The Factory Image Archive has one (1940s) image of the Cheshunt gun platform.

It is a rather curious photograph, no attribution. An almost banal depiction of ferrying across the Lee Navigation of supplies for the sophisticated war machine above by a primitive system on what could almost be a child's play raft.


Who took it and why? There is a 'civilian' feel to it, but surely such photography of military sites by civilians would be forbidden? There is an identification number 4. Was it a part of a series for some official record? Les Tucker

The 1939 Government Review

There has been little publicity about this, which can be a useful research aid.

In early September 1939 the Government commissioned a survey to collect information on the population. By then the 1931 Census would have been eight years out of date, even if accessible. About three years ago this was 'released' and can be accessed via Ancestry and Find my Past, both available free, at least for the first hour, at most main libraries and some local archives. This broke the '100 year' rule for Census returns, so names of people known to be alive were made unreadable. It is not known if they are, or can be, reinstated later. As with the Census, there is an option of reading a transcription or a copy of the original.

What was collected was similar to the conventional 10 yearly Census, but omitting 'Place of Birth'. So data shows every name and where they were on the set evening/night, together with age, marital status and occupation. This thus repeated the Census flaw of recording a non-home location for a minority 'off piste'. For example, engine driver Percy Stacey (per the 1940 Norton Fitzwarren accident), his fireman and other locomotive crew were recorded as being with a widow at a house in Taunton. They were on lodging turns; she ran a B&B. Percy's wife, at their home address, was shown as married, but without anything about her husband.

Records for different localities can be without any alteration or with additions in different ink or inks. Some are straightforward — a blacksmith has added the fact that he was a railway worker, and others have noted various Civil Defence involvement. Many are noted as fit for manual or heavy manual work. In other cases women who were single in September 1939 have a married name added and sometimes also a wedding date. But I can't recall seeing new addresses. David Thomas

Rapides over London

De Havilland Dragon Rapides have been making regular flights over London since midsummer. These are operated from Duxford, and judging by an example followed on flight radar they usually head south down the Lea Valley, turn west and then come back to the Lea Valley across central London. The flights have been taking place on Wednesdays and at the weekend and two or three of these flights a week have been noted.

The cost of the flights is ₤229 and they last 70 minutes. This compares with the GLIAS flights from Biggin Hill in 1983 which were shorter and cost ₤16. See GLIAS Newsletter 88, p1 and Twenty Five years of GLIAS, p12 *.

The GLIAS flights were in G-AIDL with Captain Mike Hood as pilot. He used to joke that his aircraft had no problem with metal fatigue; structurally it was all wooden, only the engines were metal. This same aircraft still exists and might be one of the Rapides currently operating the flights from Duxford.

G-AIDL is a De Havilland 89A Dragon Rapide 6. Built in 1946, this was just a year after the small steamship VIC 56. The Rapide is powered by a pair of De Havilland Gipsy Queen 3 engines; the coachwork was by Brush Coachworks Ltd, Loughborough.

The photographs taken on 18 June 1983 show G-AIDL at Biggin Hill, a view when taxiing before take-off, Millwall looking east and six of the eight passengers after the flight. There are eight passenger seats in a Rapide, four either side — everyone has a window seat.

G-AIDL at Biggin Hill, 18 June 1983

18 June 1983 18 June 1983

18 June 1983

On 5 September this year G-AIYR from Duxford made a longer flight than usual over London. This Rapide was built in 1943.

Very few vintage Rapides are still airworthy enough to carry passengers. There may be more than one Rapide involved in these London flights. One was noted returning to Stansted. Bob Carr

Lett's Wharf Refuse Destructor

At the recent finalisation of a lengthy pre-digital photographic printing programme, I was left with a backlog of identification problems. Very helpfully, one of them, represented by four photographs taken in March 1961, has just been solved by GLIAS members Malcolm Tucker and Andrew Turner. They are of the Lett's Wharf refuse destructor complete with 150 feet chimney, located in Lambeth on the south bank just east of Waterloo Bridge. This was erected by William Haywood, engineer and surveyor of the City's Commissioners of Sewers in 1881-3, and was related to the adjacent scavengers' depot which he had designed and established in 1869.

(Further information was provided in GLIAS Newsletter April 1999 and GLIAS Newsletter August 1999, which needless to say I had failed to link with the photographs.) Colin Bowden

Lett's Wharf refuse destructor, March 1961, Colin Bowden Lett's Wharf refuse destructor, March 1961, Colin Bowden

Lett's Wharf refuse destructor, March 1961, Colin Bowden Lett's Wharf refuse destructor, March 1961, Colin Bowden

The construction of industrial chimneys, Deptford Pumping Station

With major works taking place for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, Deptford pumping station in Greenwich is now very much in the news. Built around about 1865 it originally housed four beam engines and there was a substantial chimney for the ten Cornish boilers. Numerous websites and blogs are now bringing to light some interesting photographs.

It is difficult to find out how a chimney was built. You can usually only get this information if there are photographs and there are now one or two available on the Internet which make it clear that most of the chimney for Deptford pumping station was built using scaffolding. This is something of a surprise because by this late date, circa 1865, it might be expected that most chimneys would be built up from the inside without scaffolding. How wrong can an assumption be!

Londoners were amazed when in 1828 Mr C H Capper of Birmingham built a chimney 175 feet high at Old Ford pumping station entirely without scaffolding; this was reported in newspapers and there is an article and a reply in Mechanics Magazine 1. It transpired that this had become a practice in places outside London and it might be expected that after 35 years nearly all industrial chimneys in the London area would also be built by this cheaper method.

Before Mr Capper's demonstration it had been usual in London to build square cross-section industrial chimneys using scaffolding and these chimneys were generally of quite modest height and the work was probably done by an ordinary builder rather than a chimney specialist. Other quite tall chimneys were also built and presumably these were built using scaffolding too.

It is likely that the building trade in London had restrictive practices GLIAS Newsletter February 2020. For instance within the City of London, skilled workmen who were Freemen of the City could properly object to the employment of men who weren't Freemen as skilled men. There could have been an insistence on the use of scaffolding for safety reasons, in a crowded built-up area there would be some sense in this. Is the fact that the Deptford pumping station was built by the Metropolitan Board of Works of significance? They probably did a good deal of work in central areas and just transferred their usual practices to Deptford.

The scaffolding on the chimney that you can see in a photograph of the Deptford pumping station when nearing completion did not go to the very top. This was of circular cross-section so this part of the chimney might have been built from the inside. Chimney construction in the early part of the 19th century when there was much innovation remains a mystery. There was no photography then although there may possibly be an artist's sketch.

The photographs taken at Deptford show that very elaborate scaffolding was used for the main chimney. How this contrasts with the way it was demolished! There is a fascinating photograph taken in 1966 which shows that there were just two men on top throwing bricks down one at a time, Fred Dibnah fashion, and they had no scaffolding of any kind and you could not even see a ladder. There was just a pulley with a rope.

It would be useful to know what this chimney's height was; it appears to be over a 100 feet 2. It might be mentioned in the pumping-engine handbook that the Metropolitan Water Board published in the 1930s, the chimney would have been in use at that time and the handbook sometimes gives chimney heights. Also Thames Water may have some original drawings which show the chimney height. It is not clear whether most of the chimney had a circular cross-section or whether it was mainly hexagonal or octagonal.

Were chimneys with a hexagonal or octagonal cross-section usually built using scaffolding? The method of building a chimney from the inside without scaffolding might only have been adopted when the chimney cross-section was circular.

A surprising discovery

A fine painting dating from about 1852 shows the view looking west along the Thames from near Ballast Quay. Past Greenwich Hospital in the distance there is clearly a massive chimney, probably near the mouth of Deptford Creek. There is smoke issuing from the chimney, being driven to the south-west towards Blackheath.

This is a distinct surprise. It has the appearance of the massive chimneys built mainly in the North of England round about the 1840s, generally for chemical works where the great height was necessary to disperse hydrochloric acid or other fumes. It does not look like the London chimneys we are familiar with.

Richard Wheen (1808-1885) established a soap works fairly close to the mouth of Deptford Creek and it was probably in production by the 1840s. It was roughly where the Laval centre is now and this is a likely candidate. Sir George Head describes the building of a massive chimney for a soap works in Runcorn in 1834 which was built by a Mr Livingstone of Newcastle 3. At the time it could claim to be the highest chimney in England and as described by Head was built entirely without scaffolding. The previous year Livingstone had built another monster on Tyneside, for an alkali works.

There was a fashion for these chimneys round about 1840 and they were generally by far the highest in the country. Later they became unnecessary as the Gossage process had scrubbing towers to remove the acid and such giants probably did not last very many years after that. The fact that we may have had one of these chimneys in London is remarkable.

Two tall chimneys of roughly comparable design were built at Woolwich Dockyard in the early 1840s. The engineer responsible for these adventurous structures is no longer known. Could the builder have been Livingstone and might he also have built the Deptford chimney. It is an intriguing thought. However, the surviving chimney at Woolwich Dockyard has an octagonal cross-section.

To give some idea of what the two great chimneys at Woolwich Dockyard looked like here is a photograph of the remaining example. Originally 208 feet high, in recent years this chimney was reduced to 180 feet but the massive brickwork towards the base is characteristic. The photograph was taken in May 2018 and shows the chimney truncated.

A chimney built at Woolwich Dockyard in the early 1840s, 1 May 2018, Bob Carr

The building of industrial chimneys in the period up to the 1840s is discussed in a series of articles which appeared in Industrial Archaeology News from autumn 2018 to spring 2020, see numbers 186-192 which are available online. Bob Carr

A walk that included Angerstein's Wharf and Charlton Lane Crossing

Bob Carr's item about aggregate trains to Angerstein's Wharf (GLIAS Newsletter August 2021) prompted a visit to the area. This is the walk I did, say 3½ miles in total. It omits much seen along the river — that awaits a book by Mary Mills. It starts at Westcombe Park station and ends at the next one east on the same line, Charlton, both being in Zone 3.

Leave the station on the down (trains going away from London) side. A metal cover, 7in by 9.5in in the tarmac near the third post from the far end of the bicycle area reads 'Bailey, Pegg & Co Ltd, Bankside SE1'. Grace's Guide (internet) has a bit more info; Bailey was from the family of ironmasters. Continue a short way forward before going left by the footbridge over the forever busy road to/from Blackwall Tunnel. Turn right onto a connecting link onto steps up to a level crossing over the railway to Angerstein's Wharf, the destination of the train seen by Bob Carr. The line was privately built by Angerstein, a local landowner, to the Thames from a junction with the existing line, between Charlton and Blackheath. He envisaged a pier with profitable passenger traffic, as well as freight wharves. His vision was a mirage, although the line developed freight traffic to and from nearby industrial concerns, and, whilst they have closed, has become well used by aggregate trains. Before crossing note, diagonally right, two well-spaced tall wooden posts with metal 'caps'. These remain from when several short freight lines were provided with overhead electric power wires for freight engines where it made sense not to have 'third rail'. This crossing has been 'in the news' after a proposal, withdrawn in September, to close it. Descend the steps and go through the foot tunnel that takes 3ft 6in out of downstairs rooms of the house on Fairthorne Rd. Turn left. The next bit is a drudge.

At the end of Fairthorne Rd, take care crossing Woolwich Rd. The dividing strip separates cars from cyclists, not cars by direction. The cul de sac ahead, Felltram Way, led to Charlton tram works. Turn left, under the railway bridge. Appropriately, a LCC Tramways junction box cover remains in the pavement shortly afterwards. Turn right into, and along, Alderburgh St. After following this left, take the pedestrian path on the right, soon part of Horn Lane. Angerstein Industrial Estate is on the right. Although a few buildings look as if they might be old-ish, none are on a 1952 OS map. Continue ahead over 1960s Bugsby's Way (pedestrian crossing), and with a slight twist left, onto imaginatively named Horn Link Way. No sign of a one-time bridge taking a railway to the gas works. Brand new flats, 12 floors, to the left, whilst right are a refuse transfer station, then lorries and mechanical shovels moving aggregates and sand, with the occasional concrete crusher activity (Photo 1). Noisy during the working day with blown grit/sand.

From Horn Link Way, looking east

Go ahead to three small silos (Ready Mix, cement) and then footpaths lead left, right, left and right to the Thames Path and its sporty cyclists. Turn right and round the next corner is a 'pocket park' featuring cast-iron mooring posts as seats, with a limited view of river traffic. Ahead are two jetties. Each has a conveyor for unloaded sand and gravel dredgings. On three visits, one day had two boats unloading, but nothing on the other two (Photo 2). The jetties and conveyors post-date the 1952 OS map, which has riverside wharves where the Path now is. A disused railway, 2ft 6in gauge, runs across the path and along the second one.

Dredger unloading at Angerstein's Wharf

Continue under a third conveyor; name: Day Aggregates. To the right, visible over lower portions of the concrete wall is, amid much steelwork, the end of a railway siding (Photo 3). There must be more sidings. Pass three more silos, right, as the path continues, becoming vehicle-accessible, with some workshops on both sides, named Riverside Works and Cory. The riverside ones may be fairly new, using available space, rather than with a river history. Cory, per emblem high on the last, brick, building, right, is now associated with many enterprises (Photo 4). Family wealth multiplied with coal, then also shipping, interests in South Wales. Beyond Cory's a disused wharf has standard gauge rails set in the concrete. These, possibly for railway-traveling cranes, ran from a glass works.

Two railway wagons in siding Cory emblem

The Anchor & Hope PH is popular on fine evenings and weekends. Going ahead among a few disused jetties is what appears to be a new one and its conveyor, with the name Tarmac. Then the Thames Barrier; Visitor Centre only open for booked parties until the end of 2022. Turn right, south, veering right between some trees into Westmoor St. Another scruffy and noisy place. Is a re-used building, left, the only UK church with a metal roll-shutter doorway? Cross Woolwich Rd and turn right then left into Charlton Lane. There's a pedestrian crossing nearby to the right.

Ahead on Charlton Lane is a railway level crossing, with lifting barriers, a footbridge and a dinky signal box (1894) — the only 'gate box' still working in London. Signals are, of course, colour light. In the north corner of the bridge stairs is the maker's plate — Matthew T Shaw of Millwall & Cannon St. Again, Grace's Guide has information. This bridge is OK to photograph trains passing the box. It too can be included if standing behind railings above the nearby tunnel. To get there, continue south along Charlton Lane a short distance until a pedestrian gate on the left, turning left once inside. It's a bit steep, with some steps, until seeing, and turning to, a space on the left, behind the railing (Photo 5). To continue, go uphill to, and just past, the metal cycle barrier and turn right. It's now downhill. On reaching an open grassy space, focus on a white notice behind railings directly ahead, then find a way to it. (Contd 'This is', below).

Charlton Lane railway crossing, box and bridge from above tunnel

If NOT wishing to go above the tunnel, continue along the east side of Charlton Lane and ahead into Pound Park Rd. Go through a metal pedestrian gate, left, and take the path ahead to the right to reach a grassy patch. Continue round the left edge until able to see a white notice behind the fence on the far right. Then find a way to it.

This is the only place to see the remnants of the otherwise overgrown face of Gilbert's Sand Pit (one of many hereabouts; none called 'quarry'; more in Wikipedia); you stand where sand has been removed. From the Pit face, turn and head left of centre to reach the shorter grass of the path and turn left. It becomes an earth path between trees, leading to a gate onto Pound Park Rd. Turn right, and then left into Charlton Lane, proceeding on the right side pavement. No 50, right, was built by the LCC as a child welfare clinic. Walking on, I noticed in the pavement, within a short distance two Post Office Telephone covers and three Telegraph ones. Unremarkable in a commercial district, but why here? Turn right into Harvey Gardens and follow this until opposite Charlton station. On occasions there are crowds of followers of a different sort; this last bit is past The Valley, Charlton Athletic's ground — occupying a former sand pit and chalk quarry. David Thomas with thanks to Mary Mills for more snips of info than I could include

Maroon display at gala

The Epping Ongar Railway's London Transport Weekend Gala in October will feature three London Transport dark maroon-liveried locomotives working together, including GWR Pannier Tank locomotive 5786 as London Transport L92 and GWR small Prairie locomotive 5521 as L150.

L92 at North Weald

L92 was purchased by London Transport in 1958 and was used to work engineers trains around the system until 1969. The locomotive was then sold into preservation and purchased by the Worcester Locomotive Society. Since 1993 the locomotive has been operating on the South Devon Railway.

In May 2013, at the request of London Underground, GWR small Prairie locomotive 5521 was painted in maroon London Transport livery and numbered L150 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan line. It was withdrawn for overhaul in 2016 and returned to traffic in the same livery in the summer of this year.

The third loco is class 20 diesel locomotive 20227 which was the last of its class to be built and was used extensively on the London Underground network. It has now been repainted into Metropolitan maroon and renamed 'Sherlock Holmes'.

The London Transport Weekend gala takes place from 8 to 10 October.
More details at:

Request for research help

Paul Garnsworthy of the Broad Gauge Society is writing an article on the fate of broad gauge locomotives purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBoW). Six were purchased, one went to Effra Creek, one to Falcon Brook and two to Crossness. He is wondering whether there is a volunteer out there who could visit London Metropolitan Archives and go through the MBoW minutes books for evidence of what happened to the other two. He can give years to target and things to look for and any contribution would of course be fully acknowledged in the final article. If you think you can help please contact Paul at

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© GLIAS, 2021